Land Rover, in partnership with the award-winning conservation organisation Biosphere Expeditions are sending seven competition winners to Namibia, in southern Africa. During the two week trip, which begins in November 2010, the team will learn the skills required to live in the bush, and will study and assist with capturing and collaring big cats so they can be tracked and monitored effectively. As part of a team of researchers and scientists, the team will conduct vital research on the behaviour of big cats such as leopards and cheetahs. They will also work with local communities to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
Ben Saunders, Polar Explorer and the youngest person ever to ski solo to the North Pole, announced the winners of the competition at a special selection day at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire on Saturday, October 9. He said, 'Choosing the final seven to win places on this extraordinary expedition was a real challenge in itself. All who attended the selection day showed such passion and enthusiasm, it was hard to separate them – they all would have been able to offer something unique to this expedition. It was clear though that, for the final seven, being a part of the Biosphere Expeditions team will be a life-changing experience for them all. I go beyond the everyday pretty much every day in my chosen 'profession'and I am an ardent believer in seizing the opportunities that life throws at you with both hands. Life is short and not to be wasted. I have a huge amount of respect for all who entered this competition.'
James Chubb, a Ranger from Devon – James's life to date has been dominated by his love of wildlife. An obsession with anything that flies, swims, slithers, crawls or runs underpins his passion for exploring the natural world.
Lindsey Judge, Finance Accounts Manager – Lindsey uploaded the most popular video which secured her position in the final 21. She is 37 years old and a lover of animals and adventure.
Lauren Westwood, Creative Writing Postgraduate student – Lauren is a 22 years old student trying to adjust to life as a grown up, with a mild reluctance to let go of her adolescence and an appetite for adventure.
Michael Clifford, film director – since 1994, Michael has directed documentary and drama for the BBC, Channels 4 and 5, the Arts Council and the UK Film Council and won two Bafta awards along the way. He loves nature, adventure and the great outdoors but has yet to travel south of Egypt.
Adam Hill, Teacher, Devon – Adam leads a very active lifestyle and loves animals. Travelling is his reward for working hard as a teacher – he thrives on seeing and learning new things – and is looking forward to sharing his Namibia experience with his pupils upon his return.
Morena Barilani – Morena works with the Italian Civil Protection, and worked as a volunteer in emergency zones, e.g: L'Aquila after the Earthquake and Sri Lanka after the floods.
Juan Jesus Garcia – works as a financial manager in Tenerife and has given up his free time to work on humanitarian projects in Australia and the UK.
The competition, which launched on 12th August 2010, required entrants to upload a video demonstrating why they deserve a place on the expedition. An online voting system allowed videos to be ranked in order of popularity, following which 30 people were shortlisted. After an initial round of telephone interviews, 21 contestants were invited to attend the final selection day. They faced a tough day of challenges and activities where they were scored according to their capabilities, personalities and team-working skills – all of which are vitally important when working as part of a research team. They were also taught how to drive a Land Rover appropriately across difficult terrain, preparing them for the African landscape, how to use GPS navigation systems and how to record data, enabling them to search for the big cats and record behavioural information.